I just made it… and am pretty thankful that I did make it to see the comedy Everything You Touch at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre. It was closing night and a good excuse to run into my Conservatory classmates as we watched one of our vocal coaches, Miriam Silverman, on stage!
For the dark content involved with this play (death, human exploitation of ‘the muse’, materialism) and the many characters with low-self esteem and dysfunctional, narcissistic relationships… the opposites of love, truth and self-empowerment made the dialogue meaningful and relatable.
The play follows Jess, played by Silverman, in her journey from New York back to a small town called Little Rock to visit her estranged and dying mother. A not-such-a-one-night-stand-friend-with-benefits fashion guru Victor, played by Christian Coulson, guides her through a complete wardrobe revamp to shape-up for her intimidating mother’s death. Oddly enough, we find out that the ‘Victor’ of Jess’ life is actually made of pixels, possibly a figment of her imagination, to recreate her long-lost father.
The twists and turns of Jess’ journey were well suited to an actor like Silverman. The character of Jess was presented by masking all emotions behind a computer, flannel shirts, boxers, unwashed hair, Chipotle, humor born of insecurity and an inability to delve into meaningful romantic relationships. As the play progressed we witnessed the unveiling of vulnerabilities, the self-discovery of beauty and the ability to overcome the intergenerational insecurities passed down from her mother’s disappointments. It turns out Victor is actually Jess’ father and we learn that the pixelated man assisting the empowerment of Jess is really a self-empowerment code written by Jess herself. Hence, I am now a fan of Sheila Callaghan for being a clever writer of female roles.
Another clever use of character foils involves Victor’s first ‘muse’ Esme, played by Tonya Glanz, and second ‘muse’ Louella, played by Lisa Kitchens. Esme is dirty, individualistic, dangerous and chain-smoking; whereas, Louella is wholesome, southern and community-orientated. Their relationships to Victor slowly lead us into Jess’ family tree. We learn that Esme is Jess’ mother and Victor’s rejection of her leads to the insecurities that later cripple Jess’ emotional life. An inversion of two very different lives is surprising and funny. Esme descends from Victor’s pedestal and moves to Louella’s hometown to raise baby Jess; whereas, Louella takes Esme’s place and actually survives in New York City.
The use of the stage was handled nicely by director Jessica Kubzansky – not quite minimal – but everything on it was absolutely necessary. It was also very interesting to see women models used as objects for Jess to handle. The models were well cast and played by Allegra Rose Edwards, Chelsea Nicolle Fryer and Nina Ordman. They seem to represent Jess’ inadequacies and desire to be skinnier, younger, healthier and glamorous; yet in their objectification the models ask Jess how they can help her. One model became a telephone, one a blanket, one an ashtray, and another a hanger for Victor’s clothing. They follow Jess around like 0’s and 1’s in a computer coding system helping her re-program her life into something more desirable.
Jess doesn’t ever say good-bye to her mother; nonetheless, we see the birth of the real ‘Jessica’ that her mother might have wanted her to become. A better groomed woman that falls in love with a man who loves her back, Lewis, played by Robbie Tann.
In the end I also fell a little in love with the Cherry Lane Theatre…